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Thread: A question for writers

  1. #1

    Default A question for writers

    So over several years in my english classes i have been asked to find the hidden meaning in quotes. Like if it says "He pulled the red sweater over his head" I read that literally and get yelled at for it. Somehow that red sweater represents anger or something when in the story the protagonist actually seemed very happy. Some hidden meanings i do understand where readers and writers get that but clue at all. I guess my question for you writers out there is: Do you write literally or do you actually put hidden meaning in certain things?

  2. #2


    I personally write literally. Just so you have my qualifications I am an educated writer. I have my BA in journalism and communications. Most of what I write isn't fiction aside from some short stories.
    What I have found, which can often make me crazy is people try to over analyze and read into everything. I think a lot of times it's to feel smart or prove their intelligence. Sometimes a red sweater, is just a red sweater. Sometimes it's more. A lot depends on the specific work or author.

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Foxracer529 View Post
    . I guess my question for you writers out there is: Do you write literally or do you actually put hidden meaning in certain things?
    Literally for the most part. Like Wheelman said, I would run into alot of situations where people would try to analyze something I read. Mostly backyard psychologists who were trying to add meaning where there was none. Without the context of the line you gave for example, I would have no way of knowing what the author was trying to say.

    I do sometimes place "Easter eggs" in my stories. For example in a story I wrote called The Waiting Room, the viewpoint character is wearing a Bon Jovi 2003 concert T-shirt. The homage is too my cousin who died when she was seventeen. In the story the MC is basically dead and the very last concert my cousin went to before she passed away was the 2003 Bon Jovi concert that my aunt bought tickets from a scalper to see when they were in Albany, New York together.

  4. #4


    I write pretty much literally but I do use clues and foreshadowing... for instance I might mention someone pulling the red sweater over his head, and then a couple of chapters later (or earlier) I might have a mysterious person in a red sweater committing a heinous crime - so if you're paying attention you know "who dunnit".

  5. #5


    I know very little about appreciating literature, but authors do use symbolism and other techniques to express emotions. Not just in books, but films too. Take for example 'pathetic fallacy', where the weather or other surroundings can be used to convey emotion. You've no doubt seen a film where the main character is very sad, and is walking in the rain. Or maybe very happy, and walking in the sun. It's as if the weather was reflecting the character's mood... he's sad so the weather's sad!

    The example of a red sweater is a bit different though. It's awfully subtle. Perhaps the author did intend to use to in refer to anger, but that's a little bit more up for debate.

    There's an interesting idea called 'Intentionalism', which, basically, is that the intention of the author is important in the understanding and critiquing of the work. Some people argue that intentionalism is not important at all, and we should judge art/literature on it's own terms, ignoring what the author actually intended the piece to be about. We should disregard everything 'outside of the piece'.

    I guess what I'm rambling on about is that nobody should be shouting at you for not taking the presence of a red jumper to be a sign of anger. As long as you understand that red is often used to show anger, then that's fine. If a character who seems happy takes off a red jumper that doesn't have to mean anything to do with anger at all. But it's up to you in analysing the piece to decide whether it does or it doesn't. You can question whether to author intended to show the character is angry, and you can question whether the author's intentions are even important in the first place.

  6. #6


    Always hated literary appreciation. I suspect sometimes there is meaning/symbolism .. and sometimes it's academics reading way too much into something. In school I tried to argue this point, but it was an uphill battle and eventually I just gave into the BS.. wasn't worth it. I did occasionally amuse myself by throwing complete nonsense into the mix.. sometimes it flew.. sometimes it didn't.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie View Post
    I guess what I'm rambling on about is that nobody should be shouting at you for not taking the presence of a red jumper to be a sign of anger.
    i agree; and that's especially so for younger readers or those of a different culture. it's far too easy for a comment or a meaning to go over someone's head if it's not something they have experience of (or even if they aren't thinking along those lines at that given moment).
    generally (and hopefully) i write with the intention of double and triple meanings, but only so long as a literal meaning also applies. as in suggestive comedy, you have to provide something for the adults and the kids and for it not to deviate from the story too much.

    personally, i don't automatically associate a red sweater with anger; the author would have to create the context of such an association before it's implied (unless the intention is to be retrospective about it). and even if the author set a tempo and rhythm of writing so as to suggest a particular bent, it's not a given that it could only be taken in that way.
    i live in Britain and dismal and dank days are....... just normal days. the mention of such doesn't make me feel anything other than 'business as usual'.

  8. #8


    Context is everything with 'symbolism' and 'themes'. Personally, I don't write symbolism. Why? Everyone likes to find their own meaning in things, and since everything can have a different meaning to different people, no one can tell you your interpretation is wrong. Not a single person on this or any other Earth. A good example of this is I had a teacher who, when we read Nineteen Eighty-Four, threw symbols and themes around the classroom, onto the walls like they were electrons in a carbon atom, surrounded by hydrogen atoms. It's not that there aren't any symbols in the book, but I personally don't think that every single blade of grass is vital to a story, unless the author makes the point of naming said blades. I find that if an author knows the character well enough, any slight preference in the character's fashion, belongings, or even choices of words show enough to keep the symbol-obsessed happy.

    For instance, if I'm writing about a character who is emotionally destitute and content with isolation and the simple things of life, I might note how "[she] usually wore a pair of plain, hospital-white shoes, jeans, and whichever shirt was on the top of the pile that morning." Now, if I wanted to make it more symbolic, I'd probably add "Bloomsburg was a colorful metropolis, home to many fashionistas and designers who made it their goals to keep the town as beautiful and extravagant as possible." You can infer meaning from these little details, even though there is no actual story. Meaning is in the eye of the beholder, not the writer. If the writer wants the beholder to see a certain message, he or she should make the beholder walk the path to the enlightenment themselves.

    Oh well. That's just my opinion. Perhaps obscurity and abstract writing is the next new popular thing. I don't know.


  9. #9


    Using symbolism is something that writers used to do. I'm sure you have had to read Moby Dick, and there's a lot of symbolism there. It was part of their style. You don't see it as much anymore. I'm still holding a four star rating on Barnes and Nobel's Nook Book for my short story, so I guess I know what I'm doing, but I'm more of a realist writer.

    I do use some symbols as connecting devises, which sometimes helps to move the story forward. In "Werewolf" the music of the rave functions on several levels. It represents the rave culture, and the sinister nature of the place, but it's also representative of the insanity which accompanies becoming the werewolf. It's representative of depression and despair. It also becomes a devise to take my protagonist back in time, and to another place.

    I think that people who write about great author's works, like to find things that may not always exist. There have been a few times I've said "Huh?" They like to feel intellectual!

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